Ushahidi

Introduction & History: Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Ushahidi’s roots are in the collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis. The website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phone. This initial deployment of Ushahidi had 45,000 users in Kenya, and was the catalyst for us realizing there was a need for a platform based on it, which could be use by others around the world … (about 1/2).

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About 2/2: … Since then we have grown from an ad hoc group of volunteers to a focused organization. The team is comprised of individuals with a wide span of experience ranging from human rights work to software development. We have also built a strong team of volunteer developers in primarily in Africa, but also Europe and the U.S.

As early as May of 2008, we shared our code with a group in South Africa that used it to map incidents of xenophobic violence. This rudimentary deployment made us realize the need to rebuild the framework from the ground up. By August seed funding from Humanity United in the amount of $200,000 allowed the team to get started rebuilding the platform. In October the alpha version of Ushahidi was completed and promptly deployed to the DR Congo for testing. In its alpha form, Ushahidi was tested and deployed with 11 different organizations directly, including the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), Peace Heroes and the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights. Externally, there were 4 major alpha deployments, including Al Jazeera during the War on Gaza, Vote Report India (to monitor the recent local elections) and Pak Voices (to map incidents of violence in Pakistan).

Our goal is to create a platform that any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information. The core platform will allow for plug-in and extensions so that it can be customized for different locales and needs. The beta version platform is now available as an open source application that others can download for free, implement and use to bring awareness to crisis situations or other events in their own locales, it is also continually being improved tested with various partners primarily in Kenya. Organizations can also use the tool for internal monitoring or visualization purposes.

We are now focusing on scaling the organization in order to make the tool as widely accessible as possible, to increase the platform’s user-friendliness, and to help support the community that has grown around Ushahidi.

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